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what's in your toolbox

What’s In Your Toolbox: Erin Francois

by Annie Werbler

What's In Your Toolbox: Erin Francois, on Design*Sponge

Erin Francois originally launched her DIY and decorating blog François et Moi in order to give loved ones a peek into the Minneapolis, MN house she shares with husband Ken and their tuxedo kitten Gideon. Much to Erin’s surprise, the chronicling of a hands-on renovation to their 1934 duplex developed a dedicated online following reaching way beyond her closest kin. Bringing her interior design background to the table with Ken’s construction management experience, Erin covered the place in crisp finishes, evolving “the 90-year-old Tudor into the 21st century — all the while respecting the time period of the home.” Her decorations include plenty of hand-dyed batik indigo textiles “that add style, function and originality” to everyday life, as well as creative crafts, accessories, and furniture galore.

Though she couldn’t have envisioned creating a business when she first started blogging — having planned her site simply as an outlet for “making cool things and writing about them” — Erin encourages others to engage with their online communities in real life. “Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with others in your industry,” she offers. “I started realizing how much knowledge, support, and plain ‘ol fun I was missing out on by keeping to myself.” —Annie

Photography by Erin Francois

What's In Your Toolbox: Erin Francois, on Design*Sponge

What’s in your toolbox?

My toolbox is full of a diverse range of materials: everything from acrylic paints to power tools to wood-carved stamps to textiles.

What's In Your Toolbox: Erin Francois, on Design*Sponge

Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”

Empowered. Up until a few months ago, I’d been working out of a tiny desk in our 600-square-foot apartment. Materials were stored under the bed, and there just wasn’t a lot of room to lay out projects. So now that I have a dedicated studio with lots of workspace, materials at my fingertips, and great natural light, I feel empowered to create to my full potential.

What's In Your Toolbox: Erin Francois, on Design*Sponge

What’s on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?

I’m continually inspired by Amber Lewis’ of Amber Interior Design‘s work. I love the way she mixes old and new, and modern and handmade. Her style is so light and fresh with a relaxed, approachable sensibility about it.

What's In Your Toolbox: Erin Francois, on Design*Sponge

How do you keep yourself organized?

At night before I go to bed, I write out a list of the major things I need to accomplish the next day. That way, when I wake up the next morning, I have a clear direction as to what needs to get done, and how I need to structure the day to fit it all in. I also track all deadlines on my iPhone calendar.

What's In Your Toolbox: Erin Francois, on Design*Sponge

If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?

I would love to be able to fly! I love to travel, so being able to pick up and go on your own terms would be so liberating. Endless inspiration would be at my fingertips!

What's In Your Toolbox: Erin Francois, on Design*Sponge

What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?

The best advice I’ve received is to always try to be authentically you. No one is better at being you than you are, so figure out what your personal strengths are and let your freak flag fly!

My advice is to be social! Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with others in your industry. When I first started blogging, all I’d really planned on doing was making cool things and writing about them. But as my blog became more involved, morphing into a business, I started realizing how much knowledge, support, and plain ‘ol fun I was missing out on by keeping to myself. I was surprised to find the more I began attending events, inviting locals I admired to coffee, and engaging with others on social media, the quicker my online community began to grow.

What's In Your Toolbox: Erin Francois, on Design*Sponge

How do you combat creative blocks?

Even if I’m feeling uninspired, I often still try to do a little visual research by going through my physical inspiration file, looking through travel photos, or cruising through my Pinterest boards just to get the juices flowing a little bit. Then I step away and work on something else. Doing a bit of light research up front helps plant a seed and often an idea will start to form. Sometimes it forms quickly; other times it takes several days.

What's In Your Toolbox: Erin Francois, on Design*Sponge

Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?

Vintage, thrift, and antique shops. They hold so many fantastic ideas for surface pattern, furniture lines, color palettes, construction methods, etc., that I always leave energized! My favorite places in Minneapolis are hunt & gather and FindFurnish.

What's In Your Toolbox: Erin Francois, on Design*Sponge

If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?

Though I work with lots of different materials creating pieces for the home, my true love lies with textiles, so I’d LOVE to peek inside the tool box of Aboubakar Fofana, master dyer and textile artist. His work with natural indigo dyes is ridiculously inspiring.

What's In Your Toolbox: Erin Francois, on Design*Sponge

What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?

Stacey Kent’s French jazz (Raconte-Moi) and Lake Street Dive

What's In Your Toolbox: Erin Francois, on Design*Sponge

 

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